Go Tell It On The Mountain

James Baldwin’s book: Go Tell It On The Mountain is a masterful work.

Set in three sections, the narrative weaves the struggle of a family and its individual components through their church lives, and their salvation or resistance to their salvation.

What happens around them and throughout their experience as black people, whether in the south or in the north, elevates the characters’ deep existence in God’s world. Their religious belief and expression is their answer to enduring senseless violence and unwarranted hatred threaded throughout their lives.

The themes of sin and redemption, or striving for redemption, of rage, and of being saved – yet still a sinner – is felt in each page, in each individual’s journey.

As the novel opens with the eldest son, John, recalling his family’s church rituals and ‘the sinners’ the family passes on their way to Sunday services, the reader peeks at the family’s life in Harlem through John’s eyes. John expresses embarrassment by the demeanor and characters of the ‘sinners’ they pass as the family walks the four blocks to their storefront church, where their father is a deacon. John’s brother Roy expresses amusement at the ‘sinners’ behavior he witnesses as they walk past, and he expresses an attraction to that life.

Snatches of gospel song and verse propel the narrative forward through the several main characters’ thoughts and experiences, while the women elders and other sisters of the church, hover in the background, or come forward in prayer for the characters’ collective and individual souls throughout.

Instances of the family’s reality in a white world are shown through several scenes, but do not overpower the narrative of these characters’ lives. The reader experiences the world of the various characters and their choices, but are left to make of it what they will as they are propelled through the pages in a sometimes raw and dreadful torment.

The narrative compels the reader to bear witness – to understand the requirements of God to these characters – a forsaken people and their cries into the wilderness. The reader is kept rooted in each character’s living reality outside of the church, while unfurling a deep sense of these lives, and in the lives of their community through their spiritual connections and disconnections, and knowledge that their nearness to God is their only succor inside or outside of the human world.

Retreat And Reset

A dear friend and I were talking about this dark time of year, and how she, like me, experiences the desire to go away right before Thanksgiving and not return until after the new year.

Maybe it is the expectation of the holiday season and all that pressure to be glad and giving and grateful.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful, and while I can’t speak for my friend, I’m close to 100 percent sure that that is true for her also.

It’s just my dark time. I don’t have to try to be different anymore, and it has taken me decades to understand that.

We’re told, directly and indirectly, not to be a “downer”. But it’s not down, really. It’s more like the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone.

Demeter, the goddess of grain and the growing season, was angered and grieved when Hades abducted her daughter, Persephone, and brought her into the Underworld. Zeus had to strike a bargain with Hades and Demeter to let Persephone come back to the living world for part of the year so that Demeter would let crops grow again, or so the myth goes.

Perhaps ceasing growth in the living world was Demeter’s only bargaining chip for her daughter’s return, but Demeter’s powers may have been sapped in her grief and distress – she may have had nothing left to give. She may have needed that time to recover her abilities, and Zeus needed her powers to keep humanity going, so an understanding and remedy was had.

Persephone’s return, bringing back her bond, connection, and belonging with Demeter, revived creativity and growth into the observable world.

Time to refill our reserves is essential. Going deep into my Underworld is necessary, and some of us need more time than others to replenish ourselves.

My work now is to find a retreat that my friend and I can go to each year to disconnect just enough to come back refreshed and ready for what’s next.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

December’s Message

An unease came over me in December’s first days. What was it? I couldn’t understand why, but I kept ticking off the days:

December first, December second, December third – each day feeling more ominous.

December fourth – fifth – sixth (What is going on? What am I feeling? It feels like something big happened.

I did not remember all that had unfolded until December ninth. My mind only let me remember in the rear view mirror.

On December 5, 2019, I had gone with my partner, a system’s administrator, along with several of his work mates, to a computer technology conference, which was attended by hundreds of others in their field.

It was held at a casino a few hours away from where we live – a big draw being a weekend of free food, booze, and casino chips, with chances to win more during the break out sessions.

I drank for the first time in three years the night we got there. I had no defense – and my partner was understandably upset with me.

What I couldn’t know is that I was somewhat paralleling my mother’s experience – only, I later learned, she was drinking that night to not care about terrible pain she was trying to manage with ibuprofen and booze. I had zero excuse. I did not know that she had started drinking again after a decade of sobriety, and that she had been drinking fairly heavily since that Thanksgiving.

I am filled with anxiety and deep sadness writing this, but it needs out.

It needs telling less because of what happened, and more because of the deep family dysfunction it revealed.

When I drank after three years of sobriety, I knew I was screwing up. I was chasing relief from my depression and anxiety – but that relief is temporary at best, and I had one of the worst nights in a very long time.

I may have had slight alcohol poisoning, I don’t know, but I had no sleep that night. I felt deep dread, and I kept seeing shadow figures in our room all night, along with feeling deep shame for blowing the gift of sobriety I had been given three years prior. I suppose an upside was my constant prayer that night.

The next day, the last day of the conference, my partner wanted to talk with a man who had several others vying for an audience with him during breakfast, and on the first break, and my partner did not get to talk to him then. We planned on leaving as soon as he got a chance to speak with him.

I got a phone call that I ignored during breakfast, and I looked at it an hour later.

It was my mother who sounded like hell, asking me to please come get her and take her to the hospital because she thought she had a flu, and was very sick.

I tried to call her back, but there was no answer. Normally, I am a twenty minute drive from her – fifteen minutes without any traffic (and driving as fast as I dare go over winding country roads), but now I was two hours away and my anxiety kicked in.

I asked my partner if we could leave because I was sensing that my mother was in serious trouble, but his whole purpose of being there was to speak with that in-demand dude – and this was his conference, after all.

I thought about hitch-hiking home, calling a taxi or driving service, or a bus. Nothing would be fast enough though, and I did not have the money anyway.

I called the Wendell police, but no one answered. It’s a small town with a small budget, and I had to leave a message. I was nearly outside of myself in panic now, and I dialed 911. My emergency, I told dispatch, was my mother a state away, who might be dying.

“You’ll have to call your state police, ma’am,” I think I heard – or something close to that. Or maybe she had me hold and patched me through to the state police, who patched me through to the Massachusetts state police – I was fairly greyed out by then and I only remember bits and pieces.

Close to an hour had gone by, and there was still no answer at my mother’s house. Was she dead?

The state police asked why I hadn’t called her local police. (You’re fucking wasting time, I thought). “No one is answering, and no one has called me back,” I told him.

“Okay, we’ll try to get someone out there.” Please do more than try, I thought.

A call a half-hour later from dispatch told me that the state police cannot find her trailer. “It’s hidden from the road, but there’s a path, and her trailer is about a half a football field down it?”

Finally, at lunch, my partner gets to talk to that guy.

I was so upset with him at this point. He said something about my mother saying she felt sick, not that she thought she was dying. I couldn’t explain how I knew this was an emergency, and I nearly begged him to please let’s go!

He did cut his discussion short because I’m crying now. I was also worried that I was wrong, and it would all be fine, and it is just sensitive, disaster-minded me, after all.

Finally on the road, it began to snow. (Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?)

It was really snowing – slowing us down to a crawl at one point – and then it started to lighten up, but the highway had not been plowed.

I get a call from the state police, who I now want to marry, that my mother is at the hospital. I thank the caller – did I tell them that I love them? Was it finally the Wendell police? I have no memory of who it was, or of the rest of the drive.

We’re at the hospital. I get into the emergency room where my mother is on the bed behind a curtain, and a nurse and ER doc are attending my mother.

The doc says, almost accusingly it seemed, “Your mother has severe liver disease. She is bleeding out, and we do not know from where. We’re going to run tests – maybe transported out if we cannot find where…” His words were mostly a blur after the first sentence.

My mother is awake. Her first words: “Well, I guess I am not going to live as long as I thought I would.”

Blood is matted in her hair and still on the side of her face. The nurse said she wiped up as much as she could. I asked the nurse if she could get me a warm wet washcloth.

I tell my mom I love her, and they are going to help her. I have no idea what words I said, but I do know I told her at least that.

I wiped up all the blood I could with the washcloth the nurse brought me. I held my mother’s hand, and I kissed her forehead, and told her she’s in good hands now.

Then a worker came to take her for the tests, and said it would be a while – at least an hour.

I told my partner we could go home, which was fifteen or so minutes away, and I would take my car back to the hospital if she wasn’t transported elsewhere.

By then, my oldest sister called me to say she was on the way to the hospital.

A nurse later told me my mother had high blood pressure in her esophagus, rupturing it, as a result of taking ibuprofen and booze together, and her liver couldn’t process any of it. The bleeding had stopped, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I heard nothing else, even though I tried to take it in.

In my mind, she was going to be okay. The bleeding stopped. She would need special care – stay hydrated, which was vitally important – get B vitamins in her, and some nutrition.

She stayed with me until our family holiday gathering a few weeks later.

I was diligent about getting her what she needed, probably annoying the hell out of her, but, oh well.

My mother was to stay at my other sister’s, who is a nurse, after our family holiday gathering. The presumption was that she was best suited to help my mother heal.

My partner and I went to my sister’s on Christmas day and had dinner with her, and our mother, and my sister’s friends who are her upstairs tenants.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my mother because of all the activity, but she was in good spirits, and eating, and drinking lots of water.

My sister called to tell me that our mother wasn’t feeling good the next evening, and it was probably all the food and excitement of the holiday, and that she had slept most of the day.

That night I was overcome with foreboding. I could feel my mother’s energy, or spirit – something. I tried to visualize healing energy over her body, but all I felt was heaviness. Everything felt stuck in her, but it was like a prayer, and I continued to try to send healing energy.

I called my sister and told her I thought she should take our mother to the hospital to be checked out the next day. My sister said she was watching her, and that she was getting up to use the bathroom, and take sips of water.

Sips of water? Our mother needed cups of water. She needed to stay hydrated, but I didn’t say that. My sister and my relationship was not very good. She had been prickly, and snippy, and unkind toward me for the last several years, and I avoided conflict.

I texted her the next day, and called my sister’s upstairs neighbor to ask her to please check in on my mom. My sister said our mother was just sleeping a lot, and she planned to take her to the hospital on New Year’s day if she wasn’t better by then.

New Year’s day? That was two more days! I couldn’t tell her that, either, though. I did not want to cause a scene, or be berated. And what did I know? I’m not a nurse and I wasn’t there – so I had to trust my sister.

I am deeply ashamed that I did not follow what I knew to be true, that our mother needed help beyond my sister’s capacity to do so at her house.

New Year’s day dawned and my sister called to tell me that mom was unresponsive, and they were in the hospital.

A wail came out of me that I did not know was possible. I was outside of myself.

My partner drove us the two hours to the hospital. I held my mother’s hand and I patted her hair. I sang a bit of “The Rose,” one of my mother’s favorite songs. My sister said she couldn’t feel anything, or hear anything, so it was pointless to do that. I kept doing it anyway.

Our mother died early the next morning, even though the doctors thought she might be alright – or maybe that’s what they say in that situation. Hope is positive.

Mostly, I do believe it was all for the best. I would have had my mother in the hospital, hooked up to machines, and not passing away relatively peacefully at my sister’s house.

The bigger issue is that I tried to tell my sister three times that I believed our mother needed more help, and to please, please, bring her to the hospital, and she ignored me.

What I failed to do was show up. I failed to call 911 and say my sister was unintentionally being negligent and my mother needed more help. Because I felt it, and I knew it in my being every day, from the day after Christmas until she died.

But was I just feeling my mother in her dying process? I felt like she was asking me for help. I am deeply sorry if that is true. I want to have just been in tune with what was happening.

My sister’s friend and tenant upstairs had a sweet relationship with my mother. She told me that on New Year’s day – before she had heard the news of my mother’s passing – that she had been woken up by her cat. Her cat that never did that before, she told me.

She said she got an insistent feeling to go look out her window. She told me she fought with that feeling because it was early and she wanted to sleep, but the feeling would not let her be, and neither would the cat.

She went to the window and looked out. She told me that the sky was full of color – so full of color that it was indescribable, and she was seeing colors that she had never seen before – and she heard my mother say: “I am at peace.”

I am so grateful for that. It does not take the trauma and shame away from my experience, but it does make me feel glad for my mom, out of her suffering.

My mother’s death brought my deep dysfunction with my family out in the open.

I was so bewildered with grief that I screamed at both of my sisters, howled all that I had held for years and years – grief about losing them too, grief that had never been expressed. Grief that nearly led me to suicide on several occasions.

It does not change what has passed in our lives, or who we have become by choice, or by circumstance. I can, and I am, trying to forge new relationships with them. I have also chosen to not have anyone in my life who disrespects me, or treats me badly anymore.

I have learned to love myself more than I fear losing others.

That is probably the best gift my mother could have given me.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Summer Evening, Six Years Old

I am about six years old, and just finished my bath. My mother dries me off and tells me to get into my pajamas and wait for her while she finishes bathing my three year old brother.

She will braid my hair, like she has my older sisters who have already had their bath, but unlike them, I will have to go to bed right after my hair is braided and my teeth are brushed.

Those were the best times with my mother. Her love was fully present, and in those few moments her attention was all mine.

I stand looking at the rectangle of sky out of the window in the steamy bathroom, a soft breeze cooling my face as it carries in the evening songbirds’ chirping.

The open kitchen window is full of the dimming sky as I write this, the night birds singing me back to six years old – feeling my mother’s touch and love – the current ache of missing her lessened by this time travel.

Are the birds singing to their broods, hushing them to sleep? Are they, too, happy in their mother’s attention?

My oldest brother rushes into the bathroom: “Mom, look!”

He has a lightning bug in a jar. It’s buzzing against the glass, looking for a way out.

“That’s a special bug. You can look at it for a while, but I want you to let it go outside before bed.”

“Oh, alright,” my brother groans, ruing his decision to show her his prize.

My next oldest brother comes in with a lightning bug he smeared on his arm just as it had lit up. His experiment a proud success.

She tells him to go wash it off as my little brother and I start to cry at his seeming cruelty.

“It’s just a bug,” he sneers, and then they’re off, clomping back downstairs.

“You boys stay in now – and clean up,” my mother calls after them.

The darkening sky has quieted the birds, the light in my kitchen seeming brighter now.

I imagine a mother bird having fed her brood, and cleaned their feathers before bed – their crowded nest all cozy and warm.

A few late birds call out, and then all is quiet again.

The earth is turning from the sun for another night.

The fireflies are lighting up in the dimness, and perhaps my mother is right here, enjoying this moment with me.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Battle-ready?

If you do not have depression I would like you to offer gratitude to your well-built brain right now – or your lack of childhood trauma events – or be especially grateful if you do not have depression even though you survived immense trauma.

You are a fucking miracle.

You may well be a miracle anyway – I suppose the fact we exist at all is miraculous.

How I wake up:

The weekend interaction with my next oldest sister and a ‘mutual’ friend swims into my consciousness with all its terribleness (and I say mutual loosely because when my mother died, said friend rushed to my sister’s side to comfort her in a haze of pungent smoke, but did not even give me a call. – Never fear, they all heard from me in the weeks after my mother’s death, and I yelled at him for not even thinking to call me when it was my world falling apart too).

Then remembering how my grown son has so thoroughly detached from me that it feels like a mortal wound every time I think of it. In my waking world I reason it all out, and comfort myself, and move on – but in my barely conscious, vulnerable waking moments, the hurt is as raw as a jagged broken bone.

I am genuinely happy for my son’s happiness. He got out of the poverty cycle. He did what every parent wants for their child – to do better than they did. He has a beautiful girlfriend that he just got engaged to, and I have every hope for a content life for them. They are well on their way.

And then she ‘girlfriend-splains’ my own son to me – as though I am just meeting him. And maybe I am.

And then the darkness moves in for its quarry.

All the joy has left my life. Death is a welcome friend. So how to do it? A bridge? A rope? Something quick. I make my plans, and get ready to go.

Something – grace, I guess – shakes me lucid.

No, not today motherfucker!

Now, I know her story is not like the battle I have to do, but the entity in me is just as vile as that nearly-was rapist.

I would like a working relationship with my son, but I do not know how to do that in a mutually satisfying way. I only know how to do extremes, unfortunately, so I am letting go.

I need to protect my heart that has been so battered the last few years. Maybe someday we can have a nice emotionally-distant relationship. I wish him the best life, and I love him with all that I have.

Letting go of the family I want is the next task. The past is gone, and I was probably always deluding myself that I had good relationships with my sisters.

Ahead of me is the hard work of leaving abusive relationships. I will not be my family’s pain receptacle any longer. It is literally killing me, and I want to die for something better than that.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Where Are You, Mom?

Doe, Winter 2014, by her chicken coop

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom!” I just kept saying it over and over for several days, as if I could conjure you. I was lost. My guttural howls could not take away the emptiness.

I knew I would not be prepared. How could I be?

I thought our relationship was solid and clean, but regret has inched in anyway. Why couldn’t I save you? Did I do enough? Was I a good daughter, Mom? Did you feel loved and cared about?

You were.

I am limited, and I wish with all my heart I could have made your life better. I never got beyond thinking about how to do that, and everything we talked about doing felt like moving a mountain.

I imagine you’re free and flying around in the spirit world – or have you reincarnated (which was your fervent desire)?

Doe taking direction from Jerri – “Come on, Mom, it’ll be hilarious!”
Doe having a great time: “Take the damn picture,” she said.

It breaks my heart to think you might have stepped into another life – abandoning me again. I was too much for you – your children were too much – so you left, even if not physically. I was a child and needed you Mom. All your children needed you. I still feel like I need you.

I can understand how difficult your life was, and I know you loved us, but love is also a verb.

I forgave you as life went on, and I thought we got whole. I guess the onion metaphor is apt, but how many damn layers are there?

You did make living amends when I had my son, your only grandson. You were such a great grandmother. You helped heal so many of my childhood wounds, but your passing opened them again.

Grandma Doe with Austen
Doe with her daughters and grandson 2017

I wanted you to be here my whole life, as unrealistic as that is. I would have kept you suffering in your painful body for my selfish desire to have you near me, like I owned you or something. Like you somehow belonged to me – and I think that’s a trauma bit from when I was so very little, and so much terribleness was happening in our family, and in the world – just like it is again.

You’re lucky Mom. You got out. You’re not suffering anymore.

Do you miss being here though? Or is it better “there”? Where is “there”? Are you conscious? Is consciousness outside of the body, and we just believe it’s in the brain, or are you completely gone?

Please forgive me for my lack, Mom. Please forgive what I couldn’t manage. I don’t know if it was my job to make life the best it could be for you, but it feels like I failed you.

I liked our conversations and our mostly shared values and morals. I am grateful for the time I got with you. I am so glad I was close enough physically and emotionally to help you and spend time with you regularly.

Doe and Jerri in 2010
Laurel Lake swim day

I had wanted to do a “Tuesdays with Morrie” thing with you, but never got it together. I was going to call it “Wednesdays with Mom.” I have never been accused of being original.

Today is Wednesday, so, I guess I’ve begun. If you’re answering me, I’m too dull to hear it. I keep waiting for a sign that you’re still around, but I would doubt whatever you would send me anyway – and you probably know that – so why waste your energy?

Energy is something I absolutely know you still have because of the first law of thermodynamics: energy is neither created nor destroyed. It can only change form or increase. Physicist I am not. I don’t even understand much of it beyond the simplest of terms. Not that I don’t try. I blame my love of standing in front of Dad’s Lincoln Continental and breathing in the leaded gas fumes coming out of the car’s grill for my intelligence deficits. Sweet Jesus, why didn’t anyone stop me? I was 5? Did you even know about that, Mom? I doubt it.

Now, of course, we know that the leaded gas was spewing toxic lead into the air and landing everywhere, especially into my tender lungs and organs and bones as I stood there breathing deeply.

You wanted to make it to 103 years to best your Dad’s 102 years on earth, but you missed 90 by two months instead. Still, not a bad stretch.

I believed you though. My whole life you repeated that like a mantra. You were going to live to 103. It was just a fact we all accepted. You seemed to know, but obviously it was just hope.

Doe March 22, 1930 – January 2, 2020

And maybe you would have made that milestone if you didn’t drink so much, or if you had let us clean up your mildewing/ moldy stuff trailer while you lived – or if I was able to follow through on getting you a new-to-you trailer, or a tiny house that could have given you those 13 more years?

I know that what I was able to do was worthwhile. I have some sweet memories to savor. My job now is to keep the bitterness from spoiling them.

I love you Mom.

Doe circa 1936
High School graduation 1947
Doe 1950 something

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Tell Me

So many things I’d like to know – please tell me about your life. You think I worry too much, or that I think you’re in trouble all the time, and I’d like to change that.

Are you happy?  Is your life as full of joy as it is of challenges?

If I start asking the right questions, maybe you’ll know that I want enough for you, in all your life.  Balance is key.  Laugh, love, sing, dance, study, question, believe, cry, fail, succeed, care, think, and act.

I trust you and your life path, and that replaces my fear.  Believing in you, believing that you won’t waste this short life, or that if you do, that’s your choice, and it’s your prerogative.

My only ‘job’ (I wrote ‘joy’ by mistake, first, but I think it also applies) is loving you.  For sure, ‘love’ is a big word.  It encompasses all of life – not just the easy or joyful parts.

Life is learning.  That never stops, so I’m still learning too.  My emotion self is still immature, but my life experience is ever evolving.

Thank you for increasing my growth opportunities, and my dearest hope is staying connected – even as you wander further away.

I am grateful.

The Day You Were Born

At the beach

At the beach

Austen & me June 2009

High School Graduation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man/ Boy and Mama Aug. 2012

Summer Before College Graduation

 

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Writing 101, Day 10, Favorite Food

“Why can’t I go with Lisa and Trudy?”, I begged mom for the third time in twenty minutes.  She was cutting up carrots, and celery –  and she gave me and my little brother a half a celery stalk for a snack, before adding the rest into the pea mash in the big stew pot simmering on the stove.

“For the last time, you’re too young to go out by yourselves.”

“But their moms are letting them go!”

Mom stopped chopping and eyed me, her lips whiting around the edges.

“Well, they are not your Mom, and your older brothers will take you after dinner, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go at all.”  She wiped her hands on her blue and white-flowered apron before picking up the ham-hock and adding it into the pot. “And, it’s the first year your little brother is going Trick-or-Treating, and you’ll have to stay with him”  She turned around starting to chop the onions, and I knew I’d be in trouble if I said another word, but I couldn’t help groaning, and I left the kitchen when I saw her raised eyebrows.

I laid down on the couch in the other room to pout, and listened to the wind blowing leaves against the side of the house, and after a while mom began humming, and I could hear my brother playing with his Lincoln log set on the kitchen floor, the sounds making me sleepy.  The celery hadn’t made me any less hungry, but mom would just get irritated again if I started asking if supper was done.

I got up and went into the kitchen anyway, and sat at the rectangular Formica table with the bumpy metal trim I liked to run my fingers along.  I didn’t like the kitchen chairs in the summer when my legs stuck to the plastic seat.  My brother got his head stuck in between the chair top and seat last summer and mom buttered his ears to get his head back out.  The stupid kid tried to do it again but mom warned him that she would just leave him there this time.

I thought that sitting at the table would make supper get done sooner, but instead, it seemed to take longer.  I liked the way the windows were steaming up though, and I went to draw a finger picture on the window but mom yelled at me that it would leave grease marks, so I sat back down and laid my face on the cool table-top.  Mom told me to get up and get the bread out of the pantry and put it on a plate, and then get the bowls and spoons out.

I didn’t grumble this time because I was so hungry and I knew that meant supper was ready!  I even got the butter without being asked.

Mom sat my brother on top of the phone books on his chair, and she told me to get my brothers and sisters for supper.  I yelled from the bottom of the stairs, making my mom yell at me from the kitchen to walk upstairs and get them, but they were already stomping down.

We all sat and ate our dinner, my older brothers finishing first, and my sisters close behind.  I loved the soup so much I wanted another bowl, and mom said there was just enough for seconds.

I hated having to wait for my little brother to finish, but mom let me go get my costume on while she cleaned up my brother.

After Trick-or-treating, the house still smelled like the pea soup, but I was too full of candy to want any more.  Mom made us pour out the rest of our candy to see what we could keep, while I smirked at my secret of already eating several pieces until my stupid brother told her we ate some on the way home – and I had told him he could have some only if he didn’t tell mom when we got home.  She told us to go straight to bed, adding that if we were poisoned it served us right for not listening to her, but when my brother burst into tears thinking he was going to die she relented and let us stay up another half-hour.

Through the years, Halloween has held a special memory of my mom’s pea soup, but I’ve yet to have, or make, pea soup as good as hers.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Things Remembered

When he was a boy

When he was a boy

101 Dalmatian pajamas, 4T. I breathe into the fabric, trying to catch the scent of my little boy, but I forgot that I washed them before packing them away in the box of baby remembrances when he had outgrown them.  The box also contained his cloth Madeleine doll, which showed where the scar was from her appendectomy, and the yellow rubber duck received at his baby shower that he had to have at every bath time.  I say ‘contained’ because when his sister, my nearly step-daughter, had her first child four years ago, I sent the rubber duck, after sterilizing it, with a letter, saying that I hoped her daughter would like it, and if she remembered how her brother had loved it when he was a baby.

His sister emailed me after she got the package, telling me how sweet that was, and her daughter liked it too.  When we went to visit them a few years ago, it was gratifying to see the rubber duck in among the bathtub toy collection.

She mentioned in a post how her daughter was enjoying the Madeleine books, and I knew it was time to send along the Madeleine doll, so beloved by my son at her daughter’s age, along with a little monkey puppet for her latest family addition, who is now a year old, and I haven’t yet met.  I got a note the other day telling me they received the package, and her daughter asked if she could keep the doll forever.

It seemed overly sentimental and silly to keep those few things from my son’s childhood, but I have no keepsakes, and no pictures from mine, so it was important to me, and I thought my son would one day appreciate the link back to his youth.  He thought it was cool that I had sent his niece the Madeleine doll, and we spoke about how he used to watch the Madeleine cartoon, and have me read the books over and over.  Rather than merely keeping useless things that only had meaning to me, the items became an heirloom of sorts, and re-connected my son and I with a happy memory from the past, as well as furthering my son and his sister’s bond, with her children too.

Keeping sentimental things just adds to my pile of stuff, so I’ve done my best to pare down, taking pictures of things before giving them away or recycling them. Having some tactile link to the past is important to me though, so the 101 Dalmatian pajamas will remain in the (now smaller) keepsake box.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

My Grandfather’s Birthday

Today my maternal Grandfather would have been 129.  He died in the Spring of his 102nd year.  My mother’s side of the family enjoys longevity, my father’s side, not so much.  My mother’s line comes from hearty French-Canadian farming family stock, and my father’s came from Scots-Irish and English fighting family lineage.  My father’s side carried the banner of anger and scrappiness, while my mother’s touted ‘get along and go along’.   My father’s ancestors were outwardly ill-fitted to society, while my mother’s forebears had more decorum, but certainly had their fair share of dirty laundry, so to speak.

I loved my maternal Grandfather, but never really knew or cared for my father’s father.  I remember him being a somewhat grumpy old man with a mean little Chihuahua named, Tippy, who would growl at you if it wasn’t trying to hump you.  That dog summed up my father’s side of the family to me.  My uncle, Chuck, was a burly man, like my father, whom I barely recall, but I do remember his wife, my Aunt Shirley, who was so kind, and pretty, having what my mother called ‘spanking blue eyes’.  She also had long fingernails and would chase my brothers with her hands curled, claw-like, toward them.  She was the only good thing about my Dad’s family, as far as I was concerned.  I don’t remember my Dad’s mother at all.  I think we visited with them twice, that I can remember, because they lived in another state, several hours away.

My mother’s family lived mostly nearby, which is probably why I have such a drive to stay near my siblings and mother as well.  I often think about my mother’s family in terms of how we all ‘turned out’.  My mother was the last of eleven children, all born in the depression era, five boys and six girls.  My mother was the surprise baby, born after my Grandmother thought she was fertile anymore.  My mother was born into a hard-working family, my grandfather and several of his sons worked on the railroad, while several others made military careers.  The women in the family mostly ran their families, and a few held outside jobs, or pursued passions other than domestic concerns, but they all fared well, mostly.

My mother is the only child whose marriage ended in divorce, the only child who married an unpredictable, angry man, and the only child, that we know of, whose first child was the outcome of a rape, that she was nearly disowned for keeping after being sent to a home for unwed mothers with the express purpose of giving up her child upon birth.  My mother stayed with one of her older sisters for a while, and her parents finally relented and let her go home with my eldest brother.  She flailed for some time, but found work, and an apartment, and shortly after met my father.  He was in the navy, handsome, and fresh out of a hellacious home life, and a disastrous first marriage.

I saw Back To The Future, when it first came out, and I remember thinking that my life would have been so much better if my mother had made a better choice to begin with.  Of course, were that the case, I likely wouldn’t have been born, so it was a moot point, but I would gladly not have been born to have spared my mother from my father.

My grandfather was kind to me, and used to call me ‘tiger eyes’.  He would also buy me Lucky Charms cereal, a treat my mother would never have approved of, but he also used to give me Jordan Almonds, which I hated, and still do.  I enjoyed visits from my Grandpa Brousseau, and vaguely remember my Grandma Brousseau, who died when I was just three.  It’s odd that I still feel connected to her even though I never really knew her.  I suppose it’s a testament to how much my grandfather meant to me that my grandmother means just as much.  My grandfather was kind to me, but he was also strict.  One of the first things he’d demand upon seeing us was to show him our fingernails.  It was important to him that we keep our hands and fingernails clean.  I guess that was his determination of good breeding.  Thankfully, we usually had enough warning of his visits to clean our fingernails before he arrived.

I remember visiting my grandfather in the last few years of his life, and he said how tired he was.  He could barely hear anymore, and was fairly blind, losing his two favorite pastimes: listening to baseball games on the radio, and reading the newspaper.  He said he didn’t know why he kept waking up every day, and that was one of the saddest things to hear.

It’s hard to see someone you remember as robust seeming so frail and lackluster.  During my last visit, when I was in my twenties, he asked me to come sit next to him on his bed, and then he asked me to comb his hair.  I wish I had the understanding that I do now.  I was so embarrassed because it seemed like such a silly request to me then.  I’d give anything to go back with the understanding I have now and comb his hair – and he still had a fair amount of hair even at a hundred.  I recognize his request as a way to connect with me, but I was too self-conscious then.  It wasn’t like when I was eight and would have combed his hair gleefully.  I can’t get that time back, and all I hope is that my grandfather’s spirit knows that I understand now, and that I’m sorry I was so awkward then that he took the comb out of my hand and said ‘never mind’.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa.  I love you, wherever you are.

Here’s a video link to a short video shot by one of my cousins when my Grandpa Brousseau was 101: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV-gmdb-w3A

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.